ReLocavore: Redefining "local"

A locavore moves from Wisconsin to New Hampshire and rediscovers what "local" means.


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Rest in Peace, Francis. 


Francis and Chef helped teach me to cook Japanese food

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Science gizmos to the rescue! 


Sam and I made salsa tonight. 12 pints from 10 lbs tomatoes, 2 lbs tomatillos, 1 lb peppers, 1lb onions and spices.

Don’t know if you know this, but I got a digital pH meter for my birthday last year. Why would anyone want a digital pH meter? Here’s why…

Because they’re awesome when canning salsa. So useful. 

Some background… Nasty microbes like botulism can’t survive at high temperatures or in acidic foods. Canning kills off the microbes with heat and seals the jar so no more microbes can come in. The acid in the food keeps any remaining microbes from breeding. 

There’s two kinds of canning, waterbath canning which uses 220°F water to kill off any microbes in the jars and to seal the contents. The second method is pressure canning whereby I use pressure to raise the boiling point and kill off any super-nasty microbes. You choose the canning method based on two factors. First, if the product contains meat or seafood, you have to pressure can because meat isn’t acidic and nasty microbes thrive in meat. Second, if the pH of the food is above 4.6 (less acidic) you have to pressure can because there isn’t enough acidity to keep the nasty microbes in check. 

There are a number of foods that have pH levels at or around 4.6, most notably tomatoes. Ripe tomatoes have a higher pH, are less acidic. With tomato products, it’s always been a guessing game as to whether I can water bath or pressure can. 

Salsa does terribly in pressure canning because the extra high temps turn the tomatoes into mush. In previous years, when I have made salsa, I have always needed to add 2 cups of lemon juice to ensure that the pH of the salsa is low enough to water bath can. 

Not any more. 
This year, I was able to use the digital pH meter and record the baseline acidity of the salsa- 4.7, just above the threshold for waterbath canning. But instead of adding two whole cups of lemon juice to ensure the pH dropped considerably, I instead was able to add lemon juice a little bit at a time and recheck the pH. The final pH of the salsa was 4.38, well with in the safe zone for waterbath canning. 

Science! And tasty salsa. 


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Hamilton Falls, Jamaica, VT

 

2016-07-26 16.44.05-1Hamilton falls was very memorable.The falls themselves are lovely and the pools are very deep and good for submersion swimming. There is also a deep grotto to the right of the falls full of smooth river stones. People would pile them up into small cairns and Pidi had a great time knocking the stones off into the water. We ran into a group of girls at summer camp and they fawned all over Pidi and Daisy, giving them pets and treats.

I slipped while playing on the rocks and, in that breath, I was convinced I had broke my foot. My shoe and foot got wedged tightly into the crevasse between two big boulders and I needed to un-velcro my shoe and use two hands to pull the shoe out from between the rocks. I lost most of my toenails, bruised up my toes very badly, but thankfully, was still able to walk. On this trip, that was the only real injury I sustained. I fed a lot of mosquitos and black flies and scraped up my legs and knees climbing up waterfalls to get a better vantage point, but those were relatively minor consequences of being out-of-doors for an extended period.

One of the Campers had a Fuji Instax camera and offered to take a picture of Pidi, Daisy and me. She snapped the picture and, just like the Polaroid pictures of old, out of the camera came an actual, physical, tangible picture. The picture was underexposed and the color was off, but the picture was still meaningful. It was a thing that captured this moment. Yes, I know everyone over 30 years old is aghast  – this is how pictures used to be! Yes, I take hundreds of digital pictures, and I share pictures with my friends and family using this site and on Facebook, etc… But this shitty picture, that I was holding in my hand, was a physical manifestation of a moment. AND, I realized, I can’t share that moment with anybody but myself. You can’t post a Polaroid to Facebook or TXT it to a friend. Somehow that made it more special. Souvenir.

After Hamilton Falls, we drove home happy, cool and well-rested. It was a really wonderful trip. I think we will go see more waterfalls in the future. Maybe not 9 waterfalls in 3 days next time…

 

 


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Lye Brook Falls, Manchester, VT

8-Lye Brook Falls

(Note the tiny person shown for scale.)

Effort: Maximum. We hiked for an hour and 20 minutes to get to the falls, then had an hour hike back to the car. It was an OK hike, but the trail was full of cantelope-sized smooth stones, (mountain bikers call them baby heads) making hiking a challenge on the feet and ankles.

Reward: The guidebook I referenced mentioned that we should visit these falls in Spring or early Summer when the water level is high. When we were there, there was a steady trickle of water falling down the rocks. The pools were 1 to 3 inches deep – barely enough for wading, let alone a much-needed swim after a hike in the heat. I think I would also like the hike in the winter to see the falls crusted in ice.

Fun: This hike would have been a lot more fun in the spring when there was more water in the falls. That being said, it was a nice hike.

Pidi and Daisy’s Evaluation: We love hiking. We love to run around in the woods with our jingle bells. One problem – there wasn’t a lot of water to drink along the trail, so we had to keep asking mom for a drink.


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Moss Glen Falls, Granville, VT

7-Moss Glenn Falls Granville

This is the other waterfalls named “Moss Glen” in Vermont. The other one was better. 

Effort: Below minimal. You pull off the side of the road in the Green Mountain National Forest, walk 100 feet on a board walk, and voila! Waterfalls. If you want, you don’t even have to stop – you can just rubberneck while driving past.

Reward: Again, Meh. It’s a very sterile Waterfall experience. More like being presented a painting of a waterfall, rather than actually experiencing the waterfall itself.

Fun: Nope, sorry. There were boardwalks.

Pidi and Daisy’s Evaluation: We got dinner! At a waterfall! This place was awesome because we got dinner. Was there a waterfall too?


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The Falls of Lana, Salisbury, VT

 

5-Falls of Lana

Of all of the falls we saw, the Falls of Lana were the most beautiful, the most relaxing, and the falls that I am most looking forward to returning to visit again. Here’s the rundown:

Effort: Reasonable. There is a nice walk up to the falls and the paths are very well cared for. The path down to the viewpoint for the main body of the falls was difficult, even for the dogs at some points. It’s mostly an A shaped hike, but the path down to the viewing point is downhill.

Reward: Even though there were 15 cars in the parking lot, I wasn’t bothered by the other people at the falls, unlike the day before in Stowe. Who cares about the people? The falls are so absolutely, wonderfully beautiful that the reward is far outweighed by the remote possibility of being bothered by other people.

Fun: The upper part of the falls has many places where you can find pools of water for swimming. The water is cool and refreshing, with a bit of rusty tint. We had a very nice lunch watching fly fishermen and listening to the water cascading over the rocks.

Pidi and Daisy’s Evaluation: Super fun! There were lots of places to run around and nice dogs to play with. We liked running through the water. We didn’t mind too much when mom asked us to laze about for a bit while she had lunch.

 

 


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Bolton Potholes, Bolton, VT

4-Bolton Potholes

Effort: There was basically no hike to get to the falls, so the effort was minimal. However, the neighbors were making every attempt to limit access to parking around the falls. We got a parking spot, but I think that was because we were there after dinner.

Reward: The falls are lovely. The water was clear, but ultimately kind of boring. I think this was because the water levels in northern Vermont were very low, so the water was not rushing around.

Fun: TOP NOTCH! This isn’t so much a “natural area” as a local hangout. We were there with 20 or more high school/college students who were sunning and drinking cold beers and talking and watching the sun set. The pools are deep enough for legit swimming. There is plenty of places to spread out a towel and dry off in the sunshine.

Pidi and Daisy’s Evaluation: Everybody loved us and petted us and gave us treats. We totally loved this place.

As a sidebar, going to Bolton Potholes made me consider the value of these natural places. Waterfalls are unique, remarkable and should be available to the public. The land around the Bolton Potholes has been bought by private individuals, who put up signs to limit parking on the street, and roped off access pathways to the falls. They made it pretty clear that they did not want people to visit the falls.

While I am offended by the self-interest of allowing private ownership of natural areas like these, I am also concerned that the community did little to nothing to help support the community access to the natural area. The community’s response in the 2000s was to put up guard rails along the roadway to block parking on the shoulder of the road. The answer is not to close off access to the Bolton Potholes, but instead for the community to support building a parking lot and public access paths.